The Diary of a DM: Sodomy of the Horse (Oh the humanity…)

Like I said in the previous article, gaming groups these days are diverse. My group is no different.

In my group, we have players of different races, fathers, husbands, techies, etc. But for the sake of time, privacy, and hilarity, I will stick to focusing on their playstyles and tendencies.

In my group, I have two min/maxers, an RP fiend who loves playing off-the-wall characters and is somewhat of a stickler for the rules, a battle-minded bruiser who believes that sometimes “things just need to die”, and another RP fan who is more flexible when it comes to bending the rules.

For this first article, I’m going to focus on the min/maxers.

These guys — I’ll call them Big Poppa & Sledge (because he likes to break things — you know who you are) — LOVE to test the boundaries of whatever system we happen to be playing in.

BP prefers survivability  — as in, a cockroach’s survivability. He loves to take all the shifty shenanigans (Aha, you missed me! Now I shift my speed and, oh yeah, action point — take 200 more dmg and now you’re slowed!), and he loves to boost his Initiative (the score that determines where in the order your turn falls, for the non D&D folks out there) to insane levels. In short, he wants to pop you first, then get the fuck out of Dodge before you can react. Though for my campaign, he broke away from this philosophy a bit and became more of an in-your-face slugger, ala Goku from DBZ (when he’s pissed).

Sledge is a little bit different. As a player, he too loves survivability. But he tends to play around with the system a bit more. By that, I mean he loves to play around with feats and powers until he can almost literally not be killed by anything short of a demigod with unholy reach. In my campaign, Sledge put these tendencies to full use. He created the most shenaniganed-up son of a bitch controller, who you almost couldn’t get into melee range with, because he could send you running in the opposite direction. If you’re a WoW head, think a Warlock with Fear, with a Rogue’s stealth (for those “bok bok” moments), and a mage’s spell capabilities. (-_-)

While the descriptions above paint a decent picture of the two players, it doesnt tell you the whole story.

BP may love to create cockroach characters, but he’s not the type to take stupid chances if the odds aren’t in his favor. So I would say he makes cockroach characters, but he doesn’t run right into a dance hall just to see if he can keep from getting crushed.

Sledge, on the other hand, is likely to make 10 crazy choices by dinner. Sometimes it’s not on purpose, but often it seems to come from a desire to see what COULD happen if, for instance, you happened to smuggle a dildo — I promise, this will make sense in a bit XD — out of a whorehouse to use at a later time.

Two different players with similar approaches to character design, with drastically different approaches to ingame experience.

That’s what D&D is all about, baby.

As promised, here comes the clarity.

In one of my first sessions, our adventurers left the safety of Mesa Verde after taking a job from a reputable freight depot owner who called himself “Big John”. At this point, they were given three choices for scenarios, determined by the direction of the delivery. Each scenario would have paid a different sum of money, depending on the difficulty.

*The first option was to travel west, where they would deliver arms to the front lines of a great battle. Their payment was set at several thousand gold for delivery, with another on return — but as the battle was still raging, the job was considered highly dangerous. They chose not to take this one.

*The second option was to travel east. Big John had sent various couriers in this direction — none returned. So their job would have been to travel East, make sure the cargo reached its destination safely, and determine the fates of the missing couriers. They ultimately chose not to take this job because of the uncertainty (there were reports of monstrosities seen in the area), though it paid the most gold.

*The final choice, which they chose to take, was to accompany a caravan of cargo south to a military base in the region known as Cendrate (pronounced Sen’dra’tee). The halfway point for this trip, was a stop at an outpost called Las Pueblos — known as something of an outlaw haven.

After making all the necessary preparations, the group set out for Las Pueblos. Despite having to sort out a sticky zombie situation along the way, they eventually arrived at the outpost the following night.

To the group’s delight, their employer — who believed happy workers worked harder — arranged for them to stay at an establishment of ill-repute on the company’s dime. Naturally, this led to some very interesting RP.

This was my first lesson in DMing: be careful what setting you place your players in — they will run a mile with it.

-My RP fan/rules stickler ended up tied to a bed and blindfolded by a pair of prostitutes — who then left him there while he basically imagined himself to bliss (-_-;) (his character was, rp-wise, supposed to be very good in battle, but a dimwit, otherwise).

-BP, who was playing a monk in this campaign, ended up spending the night — in a chaste way — with a newly obtained house girl who obviously did not belong in a whore house. He ended up buying out her contract, and taking her along with the group.

-The NPC I played to give them a boost, a Spanish elf hunter named “El Cid” (with accent to match), spent the night getting drunk and busy.

-My battle-minded bruiser, who was, uncharacteristically, playing a cleric for this campaign, sat in the main hall, disgusted at the depravity of his traveling companions.

-As for Sledge. He had a bit of fun… Actually, maybe a lot of fun. But I do recall him saying, quite clearly, that he was going to confiscate a sex toy that one of the ladies happened to leave on the floor. (I blame myself for being too naive to ask why…)

In any case, sometime during the night, BP learned from the new girl, nicknamed “Chibi”, that she had overheard some days previous a conversation between other couriers for Big John discussing a shipment that was to be sent to Cendrate in a few days. From their conversation, she learned that the cargo was not supplies, as our adventurers first thought, but some kind of weapon intended to go off inside Cendrate, itself. With this info in hand, BP assembled the other members of his group together to confront the other couriers who had traveled along with them — among them a douchebag hunter named Deseveran.

After an encounter with a scientist who supposedly had information on the true nature of the cargo, BP, Sledge and the others were all set to confront Deseveran and the other couriers about what was happening–

–care to guess who hitched up the wagons and ditched the group?XD

So after hastily paying a local stable owner for use of his horses, our adventurers rode out in search of Deseveran and the caravan to stop it before they reached the town of Cendrate.

Riding at breakneck speed, they managed to catch up to the caravan, and engaged in mounted combat with Deseveran and the other couriers. My rules stickler, who chose to name his character “Flash” after Flash Gordon (we had a blast mocking the theme song anytime he did anything), swiftly dove into action — and nearly got swiss-cheesed up in one round by all the enemies (which gave birth to another of our many gaming memes — “Flash… Awww”).  But despite BP getting dismounted along the way, and due to their resourcefulness and savvy, the group managed to kill Deseveran, and whittle down the couriers to only a handful of foes — but failed to derail the caravan entirely.

BP, who, like I said, loves shenanigans, had a movement speed that could, at a dead run, outpace most horses. So he just took off on foot, and ran down one enemy. The others weren’t far behind. One of the couriers, however, was just a bit too fast for them, and it looked as if he would actually escape with the rest of the caravan.

I’m sure if a lightbulb could actually appear over someone’s head in real life it would have, at that moment, shined pretty brightly over Sledge’s.

Now, let me say that I fully understand his reasoning for what he did next… poor little horse…

Sledge promptly grabbed the… object… out of his bag, and with a creative use of Mage Hand, managed to get the horse to stop (but Dear God, who wouldn’t?)…

I hope I don’t have to spell it out for people.(T_T)

So anyway, after the horse pitched its rider up into the air and kicked him square in the face with his flailing hooves — and after we all stopped laughing –, Sledge and the others managed to rendezvous with BP to make one last charge at the caravan, which was nearly at its destination.

In the end, they managed to stop the caravan just outside Cendrate, where they were forced to battle its cargo — a large demon, which would have hatched and gone berserk inside the town.

* * *

I learned a lot of things from that session. I would continue to learn as we went along. But that night, I learned a few very important lessons as a DM that I probably will never forget.

1.) Never be afraid to put your characters in strange situations, or locations. They often make for the most fun experiences.

2.) Don’t set your game on easy mode. Your players are often — at least mine were — resourceful enough to get out of most any dangerous situation.

3.) Create villains that your players want to kill. So create the biggest, most annoying douchebags you can possibly think of.

4.) If you don’t want to see some bizarre shit — like horse molestation — don’t ever, ever, ever ever ever, game with Sledge.(-_-;)

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The Diary of a DM: In the Beginning

As the mid-day sun loomed over the town of Mesa Verde, the market district of the crossroad town was its usually bustling, cosmopolitan self.

-Butchers hung carcasses from hooks in somewhat macabre storefront displays — though their usual customers paid no mind. This was a wilderness outpost, after all. Many of them were intimately familiar with the practice of animal slaughter.

-Tinkerers, toy makers, engineers, stood outside their steam-powered wagons, establishing a rapport with the parents of their customers, allowing the little children on-hands access to the many gizmos and gadgets on display — everything from hand-crafted tin trains, to wind up toys made of copper screws and gears — while the adults struck deals on steam generators, and the new steam-powered farming machines just out of the factories in Red Rock Table, a renowned industrial hub.

-Weapon vendors and armorers opened their doors to present their wares. The brass and copper of chest plates shined blindingly in the light. The metal from the many guns, knives, swords, and axes on display glinted their deadly sharpness. The clientele who approached these establishments flashed equally sharp, deadly sneers as they browsed, though no vendor in this town would ever think to inquire on their intent for their purchases. What happened once the armaments left the counter was only for the winds to know.

-Other dealers, somewhat shadier than their more “official” brethren, laid out their wares for their waiting customers in the alleys just off the main shopping avenue. Here, potions, some medicinal, others decidedly more sinister looking with powerful stenches, sat displayed on ragged looking carpets or dingy blankets. Customers in tattered rags stood shoulder-to-shoulder with those who might have been some sort of nobility, with their emerald-accented rings, elaborately decorative cloaks, and soft, velvety furs, all waiting for the dealers to finish their spiel.

In all, it was merely another business day as usual in one of the most frequented crossroad townships in the region.

It was on this unremarkable day, that 5 adventurers found themselves all wandering the streets of Mesa Verde. Out of luck, out of work, looking for opportunity.

And one thing the many visitors of this town could attest to, readily, was that opportunity was always available to those searching — for the right price.

* * *

For the curious, this was not an attempt to begin a short story series.

This was merely the world I dropped my players into in a past D&D campaign. A world of steam punk mythology, mixed with insane cults devoted to the service of such greater devils as Belial and Asmodeus, and set up for an explosive revelation of a much greater danger later.

This was the setting for my very first shot at being a “Dungeonmaster”.

As years have passed, games like Dungeons & Dragons have found more mainstream appeal. No longer is the game just for nerds, sitting around a table living vicariously through characters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a bit of an escape. But more than that, D&D is just good fun.

It’s an excuse to get together with some friends, talk trash, pump up or bitch about movies and books, and the like. Think of it like a weekly card game — only instead of hoping for a royal flush, you’re hoping to roll a nat 20 so you can royally fuck up some asshole villain’s day. You still get the normal banter between friends. You still get the jokes, the hilarious commentary, etc — it’s just that the game is different.

D&D groups these days are filled with an interesting assortment of people. You are just as likely to see a nerd, as you are to have well-adjusted family men and/or their wives in your group. Some people game with CEOs, or hip hop fans, or Hollywood actors, and even people who have been knighted.

D&D groups have become more diverse over the years; Diversity changes the way you have to craft a game as a DM.

In order to illustrate this point, I’m going to share some of my experiences in gaming, and in DMing — by recounting some of the more memorable moments that I’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure 😛 ) of experiencing while DMing and playing D&D with good friends over the years.

Names will be changed to protect the innocent (or the crazy), but rest assured, I have gotten permission from the people in my gaming circle to use our experiences in this blog.

So without further ado, in my next article, I will begin with a little story I’ll call “Sodomy of the Horse”.

Trust me, it’ll make sense by the end…(-_-;)

Writer’s Edit:  It should be noted right now — and it is since you’re reading this — that this new article series is not an attempt to create a “How to DM” guide.  I honestly wouldn’t know where to start.

Treat the DoaDM series as literal journal entries — or a “diary”, if you will. (I didn’t find it that funny, either.)

The format is going to be very informal, the way a diary entry usually is, when you are attempting to write as you recall.

I am the Collector, and I am here to collect.

I distinctly recall telling my best bud the other day that my next article on this blog would not be about SWTOR. However, today marks an important day in my three year wait for one of the most anticipated MMOs in the known universe.

Today, I officially pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Though I did share many of the same concerns with it as another blogger friend MMOGC (and I didn’t particularly love BioWare for not including an artbook with the CE package), sentimentality won me over. As I said, I’ve been following this game for years, and when I weighed the pluses and minuses of getting the CE, I decided I wanted to be able to say I purchased the best of the best package for this game.

And what a package it is, too.

Tasty

Like I said above, I’m not thrilled that an artbook was not included in the CE, because that is one of the most appealing aspects of these editions. However, EA did — damn it — make a very smart move by selling the artbook separately. It’s not even a question for me if I’ll buy the artbook on its own. I’m already chalking it up as just an extra expense — but one that is seemingly well worth it, considering the quality of artwork that has come out of BioWare during this game’s development.

The rest of the package contains enough goodies to make it worth my money, in my own personal opinion. The metal case looks very nicely detailed, classy (much more so than a cardboard case), and should look very nice on a shelf.  Plus, I’m certain I can find uses for the other non-digital goodies that come with the CE.

I’ve always been a fan of history, history books, memorandums and journals, so the Journal of Master Gnost-Dural sounded more and more like something I could enjoy. Especially considering how well-presented BioWare tends to make their lore-themed goodies.

The statue is something a bit different. I don’t have a Star Wars-themed man cave, or anything of the sort. Most of my knickknacks and decorative pieces have a Native American feel to them, so there is a certain concern that a giant Sith Lord might stick out like a bruised thumb with a wart on it (I know, ew). That said, I’ve never been afraid to add something crazy to shake up the normalcy (just ask my friends if they remember when I shaved my head, or my dread-braids teens [DO NOT ASK]). Besides, if nothing else having Malgus there might give me a reason to share the humorous story of the time I nearly went batshit crazy waiting for a damn video game to release.

The galaxy map is something else, entirely. I’m not sure if I will ever use it. But once again, sentimentality DEMANDS that I have it — just so I can say that I do, and nothing more. Think about it like a movie poster you have from back when. You may never hang it up, but you can at least say you have it.

I must confess, the digital goodies are the real selling point of this CE. That is the main reason why I strongly considered buying the Digital Deluxe Edition of SWTOR, instead of the CE. The DDE has all the digital goodies of the CE (minus two), but none of the hard copy treats.

Included among the digital goodies within the CE are:

A Flare Gun. Which brings to mind visions of the Hope trailer.

A training droid. Where would Luke have been without this bad boy?

A holodancer. (I can already imagine setting up this thing and /dancing with it during those boring Op/flashpoint lulls.

A holocam. If this functions like what I am envisioning, this could be a brilliant way of making ingame tools to help the video editing fiends out there make their own SWTOR films.

The Stap, an exclusive mount only available in the CE & DDE copies of the game (which kind of reminds me of a souped up, army-fied version of Dr. Robotnik's vehicle.).

A mouse droid, one of the two items that are only available in the Collector's Edition of the game. I mean, come on, look at how wicked that thing is -- It's like having your own personal mechanical floor sweeper.

Finally, an exclusive in-game store, the second of the two CE-only items. This one brings to mind a million little questions, but I like what it implies. So long as the items are mostly cosmetic, I could see this being a wicked idea (not that I have to worry about it anyway -- I bought the CE.). 😛

I don’t necessarily see the two CE-only digital goodies being strong enough to suggest buying the CE on their own. But if someone were to ask me, I would say, “Buy the CE — if you want something substantial to memorialize the 3+ years of agony most of us have suffered waiting for this game to release.”

If you’ve waited breathlessly on the official site for every trickle of info-

-If you’ve waded through pages and pages, sites and sites, articles and articles, sifting through every shred of info on this game that you could find-

-If you’ve hung in there while others have fallen off the wagon, trusting that some day soon you would have the game in your hands-

-If you’ve done any of those things, buy the CE.

I’ve come to think of it as a tribute. A tribute to the patience I never knew I had. A tribute to the new friends I would have never met without this long wait. Hell, I even look at it as a tribute to personally witnessing the epicness of gamer bitching (some have spent the last three years bitching non-stop, yet they still go back to read and watch anything they could find on SWTOR).

When I made the decision to shell out $150 bucks for the CE, I didn’t do it lightly. I contemplated, considered all options, reconsidered all options, and finally came to realize that it just meant enough to me to have a hard copy of the game to serve as a reminder of all the time I’ve invested in following a video game. I’ve never followed one for as long, or as fervently, as SWTOR. I may never do it again. But at least the CE will always be there on my shelf to remind me that even I fell victim to the tireless waiting that a gamer feels when they try to dig deep for patience while a title is still in development.

I’m looking forward to the day this CE arrives at my house and I sign for it. Since I’m now registered for the testing, the day it arrives may not be the first time I’ll see the game. But having the hard copy in my hands, opening the metal case, leafing through Master Gnost-Dural’s journal, and finding a place to put it on my shelf, makes me feel a little triumphant. I’m not sure why, but it does.

However everyone else decides to purchase this game, I look forward to the day when we all are in-game.

Just think, this time next year, the agonizingly long three year wait for SWTOR will just be a memory.

On that day, I’mma look at my Malgus statue next to my stomp dance gourd and shrug with a contented sigh… You know, right before I jump into another warzone and claim some Jedi bears.

Ah, Life’s Secret Guilty Pleasures… What? I didn’t say anything.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to watch a movie that nobody you are acquainted with would ever watch, or that they would rip you mercilessly for liking?

Do you ever want to eat something that would make everyone you know gag?

Do you ever mark out to a song in the privacy of your own car that, if in a public place, you would pretend not to notice?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions congratulations — you are guilty of indulging in a guilty pleasure.

This topic came to mind a few days ago as I sat at my dining room table munching on tuna casserole — a dish I had not indulged in for more than 5 years.

It was creamy, it was chock full of tuna-y goodness (I’m aware tuna-y isn’t a word, but this is my blog so shut it), and I enjoyed the living hell out of it. I’ve always loved it.

So why did I wait 5 years to have it again if I love it so much? One simple reason.

Nobody else I know likes it.

I suppose I could have prepared it for a solo dinner, but I either didn’t have many of those in the past 5 years, or it just slipped my mind when I did. Regardless, while I slowly became deliciously reacquainted with its awesomeness, it got me to thinking: how often do we push things we like into the background just to avoid admitting that we like them, or for the benefit of others?

It’s kind of funny that we do this (keep secret our guilty pleasures), because I would bet money that there is no more common thread that exists among people. Human beings are an extremely self-conscious species, after all. Not all humans are equal in that regard, but if you’ve ever looked in a mirror to make sure your hair is perfect, or used cologne/perfume/body spray, you are guilty as sin of it (yes, doing it for your own sake still makes you self-conscious). 😛

Having said the above, not all guilty pleasures stay secret because you think they will make you look foolish or open you up to ridicule. Sometimes, you keep them secret because you just don’t feel like explaining your reasoning behind them.

For example, I love liquor bottles. Specifically brandy and cognac.

Brandy

Golden nectar (coloring) of the Gods

The ornate design of this bottle is just wicked.

Now for what makes this guilty pleasure so bizarre: I don’t drink. Not a damn drop.

Do you realize I would spend buku bucks assembling a liquor cabinet of these bottles and never drink a single f*cking sip?!

I honestly don’t know how to explain why this guilty pleasure makes sense to me — which is why I tend not to mention things like this to the important people in my real life.

As if on a mission, I have found myself diving into even more guilty pleasures after my rendezvous with “Madame Casserole”.

For instance, I watched a guilty pleasure film of mine called Ninja Wars (Iga Ninpocho) again for the first time in about 15 years.

http://www.nipponcinema.com/trailers/ninja-wars-trailer

*ahem* Yeah.

Ok, now it is important to note that this movie is not as bad as the trailer suggests. It’s not Oscar-worthy material, but it’s not garbage. The original Japanese movie was much better — it’s that ass awful dub track that does this film in as an enjoyable film to watch with friends and family.

When I watch the dub of this film, I am trying desperately NOT to laugh my ass off at the dialogue; if I watched this film with friends, that would be nigh impossible. The whole plot is also a bit too ripe for ridicule to watch it with others. *SPOILERS (like it matters…)* It’s foretold that whoever marries this woman named Ukio will rule the world, which predictably makes her a very attractive bride for all the power hungry warlords in Japan as the flavor text under that trailer suggests.

This movie tends to stay in the “secret guilty pleasures” pile because, there is no way for me to take this film… seriously (as difficult as that is anyway…) … while listening to people rip its flaws to shreds. This same mindset could apply to almost all the guilty pleasure sword & sorcery/martial arts/science fiction B movies that I enjoy when I’m on my own.

Don’t take the above as a statement that my guilty pleasure mentality is tied only to B movies from niche genres — I also enjoy some guilty pleasures from more universally accepted genres, like comedy.

The above clips are from a little ’90s guilty pleasure film of mine called Surf Ninjas. This little comedy film from 1993 was mindless, juvenile, a little too silly at times — and, you know, FUN.

Heaven help me if I actually don’t want to watch something with a profound message 24-7. I guess I don’t have a pretentious stick up my ass all the time — sue me. This movie has no redeeming intellectual qualities, and damn it, that’s why I love it. That said, once again this movie falls into the secret guilty pleasures pile. I’m not sure my best friend would be cool with sitting through 1 1/2 hours of a film that has slacker humor and not savvy humor, and the same goes for most of my friends and family (save my homegirl — you’re awesome!).

Music is another story, entirely. When you are friends with people who absolutely love rock and metal, it makes for a hilarious situation when you try to expose them to the immortal genius of Pac, Lupe Fiasco, Nas, etc. Not just the thought provoking joints, either. Greats like Pac may have had a message to convey. But for every Brenda’s Got a Baby, or Gotta Keep Ya Head Up, there was always an I Get Around just for a little bit of guilty pleasure fun. Luckily for those of us who don’t hate hip hop, Pac wasn’t afraid to scream his guilty pleasures out for everyone to hear.

It occurs to me now that I didn’t really have a set conclusion for this piece when I started writing. That’s sort of typical of me. I am more of an off-the-cuff writer. Over thinking is a very present danger for me, and can easily sap out all of the fun of writing.

I guess if there has to be a point, it would be that you should make time to enjoy the guilty pleasures — whether or not you do it out in the open is up to you. Do them alone if you don’t feel like explaining them to others. Just don’t deprive yourself of them simply because you don’t think your friends and family would understand.

If you want to watch that movie that the critics gave 1* and everyone else absolutely hates, hell, go watch it.

If you want to eat something nobody else likes, fix it and tell them to make their own damn food if they don’t like it.

If you like a song and you want to mark out to it, go nuts.

These are all just friendly suggestions.

However you choose to indulge in your guilty pleasures is your choice. But find a way that is right for you. Sweeping them under the rug is not a fulfilling option. All you are doing is denying yourself some satisfaction. When the time is right, take a cue from Pac and share them with others — but make sure to let them know that this is your guilty pleasure. You showing it to them doesn’t mean they have to subscribe.

Indulging in the guilty pleasures of life can even have some unexpected benefits.

Just look what a plate of tuna casserole did for me. 🙂